Immunological and endocrinological disturbances in patients after prolonged coma following head injury

R. Formisano, S. Grelli, C. Matteucci, V. Santilli, V. Vinicola, G. Scivoletto, V. Castellano, C. D'Agostini, A. Mastino, C. Favalli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been previously reported that following severe brain damage, a deficit of cellular immunity could be detected in the early phase after the occurence of the lesion. We report here the results of a cross-sectional study on long term effects of severe brain damage on immunological and neuro-endocrine changes in patients who recovered from prolonged coma caused by head injury. Results obtained from post-comatose (PC) patients were compared with those obtained from two control groups made up of spinal-cord injury (SCI) patients and healthy subjects, respectively. The following parameters were studied: lymphomonocyte subsets; interleukin 2 (IL-2) production; natural killer (NK) activity and serum levels of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), cortisol, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), prolactin, tri-iodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). With respect to healthy controls the PC1 subgroup, i.e. patients examined 3-6 months after injury showed a statistically significant decrease in IL-2 production, NK activity and CD25+ lymphocytes. Similar immunological disturbances were observed in SCI but not in the PC2 subgroup, i.e. patients examined later than 6 months after injury. The same sub-group of PC1 patients showed high serum levels of cortisol and PRL. These results could be related to the immunological status and may be interpreted as a transient but prolonged condition of chronic stress or 'chronic alarm reaction'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-158
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Neurology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • Brain damage
  • Immunosuppression
  • Interleukin 2
  • Neuroendocrine disorders
  • NK activity
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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